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Tuesday, November 3, 1998
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India may go in for T-90 tanks
From Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Nov 2— India is likely to buy the latest T-90 tanks from Russia to augment and sharpen its armoury for the future.

While the hunt for procuring the third generation tanks has been under way for a long time, India is likely to take a decision in favour of the latest version of tanks from Russia. While earlier the choice had been in favour of T-72S tanks, the Ministry of Defence has suddenly turned around to go in for the much more expensive T-90 tanks.

According to sources the deal for the purchase of the T-90 tanks is likely to be finalised during the visit of the Ministry of Defence delegation to Russia later this month. This specially as the requirement for tanks was immediate for the country with the indigenously developed Arjun tanks not being able to fulfil the current deficiencies.

While the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) had been able to develop the MBT Arjun but it had apparently not proved up to the expectations of the Indian Army during trials. The tank had been produced in a limited series and unable to fill the present void prevailing in the force’s armoury.

According to sources in the Ministry of Defence, the decision in favour of purchase of the T-90 tanks was being taken as they were not only known to be much lighter but had all the latest features like thermal imaging sides and laser warning systems. However the cost of these tanks was almost three times more than what was of the T-72S tanks.

Reports said the initial offer had been made by a state owned Russian firm Promexport for the T-72 S tanks, specially as India already possesses these versions and have used them successfully. The T-72 S version was a highly improved version of the earlier T-72 variety.

However later another state-owned Russian firm Rosvoorouzhenie made the offer for the T-90 tanks, which although was known to be superior to the T-72 S, but according to reports had not been undertaken for mass production even in Russia. The tank was said to have not undergone extensive field trials in Russia itself.

According to reports, the Russian firm offering to sell T-90 tanks would also have to specially put up the production line for the order as this version had also been produced in a limited series by the company. The cost for the setting up of this production line would also apparently be passed on to India, which was also the reason that these tanks were costing almost three times than the T-72S, sources said.

The offer for the T-90 tanks, sources said, was made during the tenure of Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav as Defence Minister. Following this there has been an intense competition between the two state-owned Russian firms and as a result, Promexport, the manufacturer of the T-72 S was even ready to provide the same features as those available in T-90 for the price which was much lower.

But the choice for the purchase of tanks seemed to be going in favour of T-90 tanks, which according to Army officials was a highly superior vehicle. Army officials said although it was possible that the firm manufacturing the T-90 tanks would not be able to meet the delivery schedule as a new production line was likely to be set up, but it could prove to be just the vehicle needed by the force.

Army official also said that while the T-90 tanks had not undergone user trials by Indian experts and the T-72 S tanks had passed those tests, the choice was likely to be made for the former as the force was not sure whether the latter version would be new vehicles or the overhauled used vehicles, which were also in possession of the Russian Army.

Sources said while India had been using the T-72 tanks for a long time and they had proved their battle worthiness on a number of occasions, but in the past it had also been found that some of the vehicles supplied to the country were actually not new but overhauled and used. The T-72 tanks also have commonality with the T-72 MI tanks being manufactured at Avadi Tank factory and the Army now wanted a much improved version for its future requirements, sources said.back

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